Little change in post-budget Newspoll; Liberals win Tasmanian majority


AAP/Mick Tsikas

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted May 13-16 from a sample of 1,506, gave Labor a 51-49 lead, unchanged from the last Newspoll published three weeks ago. Primary votes were 41% Coalition (steady), 36% Labor (down two), 12% Greens (up two) and 2% One Nation (down one). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

58% were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance (down one), and 38% were dissatisfied (up one), for a net approval of +20. Anthony Albanese’s net approval was down four points to -7, his worst ever net approval. Morrison led Albanese as better PM by 55-30 (56-30 three weeks ago).

Newspoll has asked three questions after every budget: whether the budget was good for the economy, good for you personally, and whether the opposition would have delivered a better budget. Results for this last question are yet to appear, and it would be disappointing if that question has been cancelled.

44% thought last Tuesday’s budget was good for the economy and 15% bad, for a net rating of +29. On personal finances, 19% thought it would be good and 19% bad, for a net zero rating. Voters have consistently been better disposed to budgets on the economy than the personal.

The Poll Bludger says this budget is the eighth best on personal finance and the sixth best on the economy since Newspoll started asking these questions, which I believe was in 1988. Analyst Kevin Bonham says this budget has the best net score on the economy since 2007’s +48. However, the Coalition under John Howard lost the 2007 election after that budget.

Most budgets have little impact on voting intentions, and this is confirmed by voting intentions remaining unchanged on two party preferred in this Newspoll. Exceptions were the very unpopular 1993 and 2014 budgets. After both those budgets, the government lost much support.

The drop in Labor’s support, and the rise for the Greens, is probably due to left-wing voters who are unhappy with Albanese. Morrison’s consistently big lead over Albanese as better PM likely encourages some voters to perceive Labor would do better if led by someone more left-wing than Albanese. I posted about the flaws in this logic in my last Newspoll report.

In an additional Newspoll question, 73% thought Australia’s borders should remain closed until at least mid-2022, or the pandemic is under control globally. Just 21% thought borders should open as soon as all Australians who want to be are vaccinated.

In last week’s Essential poll, taken before the budget, Morrison’s net approval surged to +26 from +17 in mid-April. With women, his net approval rose 17 points to +21; with men, it was up two points to +31. While there is still a gender gap, many women appear to have forgotten or forgiven the sexual misbehaviour in March.

Liberals win Tasmanian majority as sex-compromised Liberal wins, then resigns

At the May 1 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 lower house seats (steady since the 2018 election), Labor nine (down one), the Greens two (steady) and Independent Kristie Johnston won the last seat. Vote shares were 48.7% Liberal (down 1.5%), 28.2% Labor (down 4.5%), 12.4% Greens (up 2.1%) and 6.2% for independents.

In party terms, there were two electorates where the result appeared uncertain in my post-election article: Clark and Bass. With five seats per electorate, a quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. In the Hare-Clark system, candidates compete against other candidates in the same party, as well as other parties’ candidates.

In Clark, there was some doubt on election night as to whether the Liberals would win a second seat. But former Labor MP Madeleine Ogilvie, who had sat as an independent in the last parliament, and joined the Liberals at this election, won the second Liberal seat in Clark.

Ogilvie was 342 votes or 0.03 quotas ahead of fellow Liberal Simon Behrakis at the second last count. At Behrakis’ exclusion, final standings were Ogilvie 0.95 quotas, Johnston 0.93 and Independent Sue Hickey 0.82. Ogilvie and Johnston were elected to the final two seats.

In Bass, Labor benefited from leakage of Premier Peter Gutwein’s surplus and preferences from other sources. Labor easily defeated the Greens and Liberals for the final seat for a three Liberal, two Labor result.

The day before the election, Liberal Braddon candidate Adam Brooks was accused of impersonating to enter a sexual relationship using a fake driver’s license. Tasmania still requires early voters to complete a declaration that they cannot vote on election day, so most votes were cast on election day.

Brooks was still elected after a close race with two other Liberals in Braddon. With the final two seats to be filled, Jaensch finished on 0.934 quotas, Brooks 0.931 and Ellis 0.904, with Ellis missing out. Brooks had been 0.046 quotas ahead of Ellis after Liberal exclusions and surpluses, with his lead reduced by sources outside the Liberals.




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Has a backlash against political correctness made sexual misbehaviour more acceptable?


The Braddon result was finalised Thursday. On Friday, Brooks resigned his seat after Queensland police charged him with firearms offences. Brooks’ seat will definitely go to a Liberal on a countback (not a byelection), likely Ellis. The Liberals will be relieved at not requiring Brooks’ vote to maintain a majority.

In the upper house, the Liberals gained Windermere from a retiring conservative independent, while Labor held Derwent. In Windermere, the Liberals defeated Labor by 54.1-45.9, from primary votes of 37.8% Liberal, 27.0% Labor and 21.3% for an independent. In Derwent, Labor defeated the Liberals by 55.7-44.3, from primary votes of 49.1% Labor, 40.9% Liberal and 10.0% Animal Justice.

The Tasmanian upper house has 15 single-member electorates with two or three up for election every May for six-year terms. Current standings are five Labor, four Liberals, four left independents and two centre-right independents.

Poll gives Nationals 51-49 lead for Saturday’s Upper Hunter (NSW) byelection

A byelection will occur in the NSW Nationals-held state seat of Upper Hunter this Saturday. This seat has been Nationals-held since 1932, but at the 2019 NSW election, the Nationals had their lowest primary vote of 34.0%. Labor had 28.7%, the Shooters 22.0% and the Greens 4.8%.

Excluding exhausting preferences, the Nationals defeated Labor by 52.6-47.4, with 24.2% of total votes exhausting under NSW’s optional preferential system.

A YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph gave the Nationals a 51-49 lead over Labor in Upper Hunter based on respondent preferences. Primary votes were 25% Nationals, 23% Labor, 16% Shooters, 11% One Nation, 6% Greens and 10% combined for two independents. The poll was conducted May 11-13 from a sample of just 400.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Is that the Coalition debt truck parked just past the election?


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraIt was a small thing but a revealing moment during Scott Morrison’s Wednesday interview on Nine’s Today show.

Presenter Karl Stefanovic noticed Morrison seemed out of sorts, despite the government having delivered the night before a benign budget that was well received and likely to be popular.

“It is a very big budget. Josh Frydenberg had a very big smile on his face this morning. I thought you might be happier this morning, PM. Everything OK?” Stefanovic asked.

Morrison said he was “fine”. He went on: “I’ve got to tell you, Karl, the reason is this.

“I know, look, budgets are big events and that’s all fine, but I just know the fight we’re in – and the fight we’re in, and me as prime minister I’m in, is to be protecting Australians at this incredibly difficult time.

“I am very cognisant of how big those challenges are. It is with me every second of every day.”

There are a few points to be made here.




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First, the government is using the budget to talk up the current threat of the pandemic to an extent it hadn’t been recently.

Morrison, in particular, had previously been anxious to emphasise the return to as much normality as possible. Now it’s more about lurking dangers.

These provide a justification for the government’s mega spending in the budget. (“Did anyone miss out? Perhaps only the beekeepers of Australia,” quipped one cynical Liberal backbencher.)

The language also indicates Morrison wants to do what state and territory leaders have done – use the pandemic to pave the path to electoral victory.

The other point highlighted by the Today exchange is that Morrison was looking somewhat ragged.

This was accentuated by the contrast with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg who, on the face of it, would have been under the greater stress.

Frydenberg’s performances in the week of his third budget were smooth and, whatever nerves he felt, he appeared unfazed.

The week reinforced the impression he is in the box seat eventually to reach the prime ministership (assuming the Coalition lasts in government).

Pre-budget, he and wife Amie were out for the cameras on a Sunday charity run in Canberra. Post-budget, his staff rang around backbenchers to ask if they’d like a picture with the treasurer.

In question time, Morrison found old problems returning to irritate him. He was pressed on the two internal inquiries into who in his office knew or did what in relation to the Brittany Higgins matter, and he had to say neither was concluded (one had been on hold before this week while the police dealt with their investigation of her rape allegation). Whatever the results of these inquiries, Morrison needs to get them cleared away as soon as possible. They are “barnacles”.

Morrison has been travelling a lot recently and may be tired (although those around him say he’s energised by being on the road). Or he may not be used to sharing the limelight. Or the endless round of everything may be just taking its toll.

Then there’s the challenge of explaining this Labor-lite budget to the hardliners in the Liberal base and among the right-wing commentariat.

The budget has made the opposition’s already formidable task of carving out room for itself more difficult, but it is also proving a hard swallow for those rusted on to the Coalition’s old “debt and deficit” preoccupation.




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Many of these critics will be reluctant to buy the proposition the big spending must continue because the pandemic is a constant threat, given they’ve thought the threat was exaggerated in the first place.

The government could attempt to deal with these critics by saying it will “snap back” into tackling debt and deficit as quickly as possible.

But facing an election soon, it doesn’t want to do this, for obvious reasons.

In the budget the timing of the next stage, fiscal consolidation, is imprecise.

The budget papers say: “Progress on the economic recovery will be reviewed at each Budget update. This phase of the Strategy will remain in place until the economic recovery is secure and the unemployment rate is back to pre-crisis levels or lower.”

While some commentary is focused on how the Coalition has done a dramatic U-turn from its old debt-and-deficit rhetoric, there’s an opportunity for Labor to run a major scare campaign claiming it’s not a U-turn at all – that the debt truck is just in the parking lot.

Remember, it can say, when Tony Abbott promised no cuts to health, education and even the ABC – and recall what happened. This time, so the argument runs, cuts and savings will be Coalition priorities again as soon as it has secured the votes.

Morrison and Frydenberg this week have been invoking John Howard’s advice, given to Frydenberg in the early days of the pandemic, that “in times of crisis there are no ideological constraints”.

The question is whether the Liberals have softened their ideology, or just put it in storage during the crisis.

While there can be no definite answer, Tim Colebatch, writing in Inside Story. makes a strong case that the Coalition “won’t dump its political tactic of branding itself as the ‘fiscally responsible’ party and Labor as the party standing for deficits. This [budget] is a short-term tack that will be reversed after the election.

“Of course no government promising $503 billion of deficits in five years can be called fiscally responsible, so it will make cuts then to reclaim the brand,” Colebatch says.

Morrison and Frydenberg are both pragmatists rather than ideologues. But opinions in the wider party are also relevant, as Malcolm Turnbull found on the climate issue.

Frydenberg has pledged there will not be “any sharp pivots towards ‘austerity’”.

Nevertheless, there must be a budgetary reset at some point. And whether a pivot is sharp or not, and what amounts to “austerity” depend in part on whether you are one of the losers.




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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Simon Birmingham and Jim Chalmers on a big spending budget


The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: a budget for a pandemic, with next year’s election in mind


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraTreasurer Josh Frydenberg calls this a “pandemic budget” – one to sustain the economy in times that are still uncertain – but it also has a substantial element of an election budget.

That’s not to suggest Prime Minister Scott Morrison will rush to the polls this year. But given the election has to be held by May 21, 2022, this is likely to be the last budget of the cycle. Another could be squeezed in, as in 2019, but it would have to be brought forward from the normal time.

Last year the treasurer said budget repair and debt repayment – otherwise known as the hard and unpleasant decisions – wouldn’t be undertaken before unemployment was “comfortably” below 6%.




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Now unemployment is 5.6% (the March figure) but Frydenberg has shifted the goal posts, so the emphasis remains on recovery, with more difficult reckonings a way off – beyond the election.

Given a grim COVID picture internationally and a long way to go with the vaccine program locally, that is sound – and also politically convenient.

In this budget, the government’s policy approach is firmly aligned with that of the Reserve Bank, with Frydenberg embracing the bank’s objective of pushing unemployment well below pre-pandemic levels, which means to a rate with a 4 in front of it.

Two central spending areas in the budget have been, in effect, imposed on the government.

It had to respond to the damning findings of the aged care royal commission. The fact most Australian COVID deaths occurred in aged care underlined how unfit for purpose the system is. Frydenberg told the ABC there will be more than $10 billion spending on aged care over the forward estimates.

The budget’s “women’s” focus — a sharp contrast to last year — has drivers that go beyond the urgent need to do more to combat violence against women, and other imperatives.

Morrison’s “women problem”, which exploded with the demonstrations following the high-profile allegations of rape, most obviously increased the attention on women in this budget, which will include a women’s statement with initiatives on health, safety, and economic security.

Also, Labor’s decision to make childcare one of its main policy pitches, promising a big spend, reinforced economic considerations pushing the government to produce its own childcare policy (which doesn’t start until July 2022).

Even in the middle of the pandemic last year, few would have thought that by now we’d still have no firm idea when our international borders will re-open.

Morrison is cautious about it, and judges that’s in line with the thinking of the Australians public at the moment. He can read those state electoral results as well as anyone — he knows people put health safety above all else.

“International borders will only open when it is safe to do so”, he said on Facebook at the weekend. “Australians are living like in few countries around the world today.”

On the other hand, the pressure for students to come, migration to resume and people to be allowed to travel must build sooner or later.

The budget’s assumptions will put the reopening in 2022, Frydenberg told the ABC at the weekend.




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Economist Saul Eslake says while keeping the country closed to the outside world is obviously not sustainable in the long run, it has, in a perverse way, some short run plusses for the government’s economic objectives.

“It’s very easy to get unemployment down when the border is closed. You only need to create 5000 new jobs a month to prevent unemployment rising.

“Previously [with migrants coming] you needed 16,000 new jobs a month. Currently we’re creating 60,000 a month,” Eslake says.

Migrants stimulate growth. But so does having Australians unable to travel overseas, Eslake says. They can only spend domestically – or save – the $55 billion they would normally be spending abroad. They appear to be spending quite a deal of it on things like home equipment, furnishings, renovations, cars, and even clothing.

While fiscal repair is formally delayed, the budget will show it is gradually, to a degree, repairing itself.

The quicker-than-expected bounce back of the labour market, which reduces welfare costs and boosts tax revenue, and the similar rebound in corporate profits, help the bottom line. Frydenberg says that, despite JobKeeper coming to an end, 105,000 people came off income support in April. High iron ore prices are also a godsend to revenue.

Chris Richardson, from Deloitte Access Economics, has forecast a deficit for this financial year of about $167 billion, compared with the December budget update figure of $198 billion. For 2021-22 , the Deloitte forecast is a deficit of about $87 billion compared with the update’s forecast of $108 billion.

Still, a balanced budget will be some years off, Richardson says.

He gives four reasons: substantial structural spending on aged care, mental health, childcare, disability and the like; low wage and price inflation (inflation helps budgets); missing migrants; and interest payments on debt (helped by low interest rates but still significant).

On what we know, the budget will be safe rather than adventurous. And while budgets can always unexpectedly trip over their own feet, and inevitably have plenty of critics, this will be the sort of benign one that doesn’t go out of its way to hurt or offend voters.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Liberals’ victory in Tasmanian election is more status quo than ringing endorsement


AAP/Sarah Rhodes

Michael Lester, University of TasmaniaThe Tasmanian Liberal government has been returned for a record third term, vindicating premier Peter Gutwein’s decision to go to an election a year early.

However, rather than the big swings to the incumbent governments seen in recent elections in Queensland and Western Australia due to their management of the pandemic, the result in Tasmania maintained the status quo.

While benefiting from Gutwein’s high personal popularity due to his management of the pandemic, the Liberal vote fell slightly from 50.3% at the 2018 election to 48.8% at the close of counting late on Saturday night. However, Labor’s vote fell 4.5% to just 28%.




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The Liberals are poised to win 13 seats in the 25-seat House of Assembly, Labor nine, the Greens two and one independent.

Under Tasmania’s Hare Clark proportional electoral system, five members are returned from five seats. These are Bass in the state’s north, Braddon in the north-west, Clark and Franklin in the greater Hobart area and southern region, and Lyons, which sprawls across the state’s centre and east coast.

To win a seat, each candidate needs to win 16.6% of the formal vote but, based on the percentage of vote for each party group, it is clear the Liberals will win three seats in each of Bass, Braddon and Lyons, two seats in Franklin and most likely two seats in Clark.

Labor’s nine seats include two in Bass, Braddon, Franklin and Lyons but only one in the party’s former stronghold of Clark. The main reason for this is the loss of votes to two high-profile independents – Glenorchy City Council mayor Kristie Johnston and the former Liberal speaker Sue Hickey – one of whom is predicted to win a seat on preferences.

The Greens vote is up 2% to 12.3% statewide, securing the two seats they held in the previous parliament in Clark and Franklin, but not enough to win further seats.

Labor leader Rebecca White conceded defeat on Saturday night, congratulating Gutwein on winning the election and for his high personal vote after securing almost half the available votes in his electorate of Bass. This is among the highest individual votes in the modern era.




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As Tasmanians head to the polls, Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein hopes to cash in on COVID management


Gutwein claimed victory but stopped short of declaring he had secured a majority, saying only it appeared “increasingly likely”.

The election outcome means a return to the one-seat majority his government held just prior to the election. He also made history by securing the Liberals a record third term in office in Tasmania.

While the balance of seats remains much the same, there will be a turnover of members with some new faces replacing former MPs.

In the government line-up, Hickey, who was ousted from the Liberal Party a few days before the election was called, looks likely to be replaced by former Labor MP turned independent Madeleine Ogilvie, who switched to the Liberals just days after Gutwein announced the election.

In Braddon, first-term MP Felix Ellis lifted his vote by 6.1% while scandal-prone former MP Adam Brooks has edged ahead of housing minister Roger Jaensch and may replace him in the Liberal team.

On the opposition benches, Kingborough Council mayor Dean Winter, who was the subject of a fierce factional battle to prevent him standing for Labor, will replace Labor frontbencher Alison Standen in Franklin.

In Bass, former Launceston mayor Janie Finlay is poised to replace Jennifer Houston in Labor’s line-up.

Tasmania also saw elections in two of the Legislative Council seats of Derwent in the state’s south and Windemere in the north. Labor MLC Craig Farrell defeated his Liberal rival, Derwent Valley mayor Ben Shaw. In Windemere, where the sitting independent retired, Liberal candidate and television presenter Nick Duigan is leading Labor’s Geoff Lyons and independent Will Smith. That seat will be decided by preferences.

It will be 10 days before the final distribution of preferences can commence in the House of Assembly election due to the need to wait until all postal votes are counted. But only in Clark is there potential for this process to affect the election result.

Either way, it is either a Liberal majority or a Liberal minority government.The Conversation

Michael Lester, PhD candidate, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tasmanian election preview: commissioned poll has Liberals likely short of majority


AAP/Sarah Rhodes

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThe Tasmanian election will be held on Saturday, with polls closing at 6pm AEST. A uComms poll for the left-wing Australia Institute, conducted April 21 from a sample of 1,023, gave the Liberals 41.4%, Labor 32.1%, the Greens 12.4%, Independents 11.0% and Others 3.1%.

This poll is in marked contrast to the last publicly available Tasmanian poll: an EMRS poll in February that gave the Liberals 52%, Labor 27%, Greens 14% and 7% for all Others.

The uComms poll is likely to be the only poll of the election campaign. There will be no pre-election EMRS poll, and Newspoll did not do a pre-election survey in 2018.

Analyst Kevin Bonham says there are many reasons to doubt this uComms poll. If previous uComms polls in November 2019 and 2020 are benchmarked against comparable EMRS polls, the Liberal vote is well below EMRS – and EMRS understated the Liberals by an average 1.8% at the last four Tasmanian elections.

Another reason to be sceptical is that Labor’s vote is only so high owing to the 7% who said they were initially undecided. When pushed, 67% of them backed Labor, implying a soft Labor vote. Polls that are not media-released should be treated cautiously, whether the commmissioning source is left or right-wing.

Bonham’s seat model has the Liberals winning around 12 of the 25 Tasmanian lower house seats if the uComms poll is correct, denying them a majority.




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As Tasmanians head to the polls, Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein hopes to cash in on COVID management


Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system

Tasmania uses the same five electorates for federal and state elections. At state elections, five members are elected per electorate using the Hare-Clark system, for a total of 25 lower house members.

If ordered from most Liberal to least at the 2019 federal election by Liberal vs Labor two party vote, the electorates are Braddon (53.4% to Liberal), Bass (50.4%), Lyons (44.8%), Franklin (37.8%) and Clark (33.8%). Independent Andrew Wilkie won Clark, but the two party vote ignores independents. The Liberal vote in Lyons would probably have been higher if not for candidate issues.

At the 2018 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 seats, to ten for Labor and two Greens. The Liberals won three seats in each of Bass, Braddon and Lyons, and two in both Franklin and Clark (called Denison then). Statewide vote shares were 50.3% Liberal, 32.6% Labor and 10.3% Greens.

With five members per electorate, a quota is one-sixth of the vote, or 16.7%. Tasmania uses the Hare-Clark system with Robson rotation, which randomly orders candidates within a party group on ballot papers. This means there is no advantage to being the top candidate for your party.

Hare-Clark is a candidate-based system; people vote for candidates, and there is no above the line box to vote for your party. A formal vote requires at least five preferences in Tasmania.

For the distribution of preferences, all candidates who achieve a quota at any stage are elected, and their surplus over one quota transferred. When nobody remaining has a quota, candidates are eliminated, starting with the person with the lowest vote. Owing to exhaustion, final candidates elected often have less than a full quota.

Votes can leak out of a party’s ticket, costing them seats where they appeared ahead on first preferences. If votes split evenly among a bigger party’s candidates, those candidates can defeat a smaller party even if the smaller party was closer to quota. For instance, one party could have 1.8 quotas, but their two candidates have 0.9 quotas each, beating another party that had 0.85 quotas.

At this election, most electorates will feature Liberal vs Labor vs Greens contests, but Clark has two prominent independents: former lower house Speaker Sue Hickey, who sometimes opposed her Liberal party’s positions, and quit the party when she was not preselected; and local mayor Kristie Johnston.

These independents could explain the high vote for independents of 11% in the uComms poll, but Bonham is still sceptical. Polls that ask specifically for independents draw voters who will back independents if one that suits their politics stands. But as suitable independents don’t usually exist, they underperform their polling.




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Upper house elections

Two or three of Tasmania’s 15 single-member upper house seats are up for election every May for six-year terms, and this time the upper house elections will occur concurrently with the lower house.

This year, elections will occur in Derwent and Windermere. In Mersey, left-leaning independent Mike Gaffney was re-elected unopposed. That means nobody else nominated to run, so Gaffney was declared elected without an election.

Derwent has been held continuously by Labor since 1979, and they outpolled the Liberals 45.4% to 41.9% in 2018, despite the statewide thrashing. Windermere was held by retiring conservative independent Ivan Dean; in 2018, the Liberals won 54.6%, Labor 30.6% and the Greens 7.5%. The most likely outcome is Labor retaining Derwent while the Liberals gain Windermere.

According to Bonham, the upper house currently has five Labor, three Liberals, four left independents, two centre-right independents and one conservative independent. The 9-6 left majority could be reduced to 8-7 if the Liberals upset Labor in Derwent.

Bonham’s Tasmanian election guide, with links to both the lower and upper house electorates, has been of great assistance for this article.

Federal Essential poll and additional Newspoll questions

In this week’s federal Essential poll, conducted April 21-26 from a sample of 1,090, 42% said they would get vaccinated as soon as possible (down five since March), 42% said they would get vaccinated but not straight away (up two) and 16% said they would never get vaccinated (up four).

The bad publicity for the AstraZeneca vaccine over the blood clots issue has had an impact, with 27% saying they would be willing to get the Pfizer vaccine, but not AstraZeneca.

43% thought the vaccination rollout was being down efficiently (down 25 since early March), 63% thought it was being done safely (down ten) and 52% thought it would be effective at stopping COVID (down 11).

In Newspoll, 70% approved of Scott Morrison’s handling of the COVID pandemic, while 27% disapproved. That’s down from 82-15 approval last June. By 53-43, voters were satisfied with the vaccine rollout.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As Tasmanians head to the polls, Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein hopes to cash in on COVID management


Sarah Rhodes/AAP

Michael Lester, University of TasmaniaTasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein is gambling on an early election to cash in on his government’s popularity due to its management of the COVID pandemic. It is a reasonable strategy, given how voters in Queensland and Western Australia have rewarded their governments in recent months.

Gutwein announced the May 1 election on March 26 – a year earlier than it is due. This was possible because, while Tasmania has a four-year maximum term, it does not have a fixed term, unlike all other states and territories.

In 2018 the Liberals, under then-Premier Will Hodgman, were returned to government with a bare majority of 13 of the 25 members of the lower house. Gutwein took over the premiership following Hodgman’s resignation in January 2020.

Over the past three years, the majority government has at times looked shaky. This was typified by maverick Liberal Clark MP Sue Hickey winning the speakership ballot with the support of Labor and the Greens against her party’s candidate. She has since voted against government legislation and policy on a number of policy and social reform issues.

Five days before calling the election Gutwein informed Hickey she would not get Liberal re-endorsement for the next election. She resigned from the party, putting the government into minority.

Having engineered a minority government and, despite written assurances from Hickey and ex-Labor, independent MP Madeleine Ogilvie on confidence and supply, Gutwein then called the election to secure “stable majority government”. His reasoning was that this would keep Tasmania in safe hands for ongoing management of COVID.




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A few days later, Ogilvie was endorsed as a Liberal candidate for Clark. This underlined the artificiality of the minority government argument.

Under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark proportional electoral system, five members are elected to each of five multi-member seats. These are Bass in the north, Braddon in the north west, Clark and Franklin in the greater Hobart and southern region, and the sprawling Lyons across the middle of the state.

Going into this election, the Liberals had 12 seats, Labor nine, Tasmanian Greens two and there were two independents.

In March 2020, before the pandemic, Labor leader Rebecca White was matching first Hodgman and then Gutwein as preferred premier.

However, that changed after Gutwein declared a state of emergency and the “toughest border restrictions in Australia”.

Like his counterparts in Queensland and WA, the hard-line stance was widely interpreted as keeping the state safe. Gutwein polled as high as 70% as preferred premier in opinion polls throughout 2020.

The election announcement caught Labor unprepared. The start of its campaign was sidetracked by factional battles over preselection of high-profile Kingborough Mayor Dean Winter for the seat of Franklin. It also had to deal with the resignation of state ALP president Ben McGregor from the campaign over crude text messages he sent to a female colleague some years ago.

The Liberals also have had their share of problems. Franklin candidate Dean Ewington was forced to resign when it was revealed he had attended anti-lockdown rallies against Gutwein’s policy. Ex-minister and now Braddon candidate Adam Brooks also faces police charges over alleged contraventions of gun storage law.

Tasmania has has three minority governments in the modern era. These are the 1989 Labor-Green Accord government, the 1996 Liberal minority government and the 2010 Labor-Green quasi-coalition government. In each case voters punished the major governing party at the following election.

Consequently, the prospect of a hung parliament is always a central election issue in this state. Both Labor and the Liberals have pledged to govern in majority or not at all. However, in their one campaign debate to date, both Gutwein and White indicated they would resign the leadership rather than lead a minority government. This seems to leave open the door for their replacements to take up negotiations to form government.

Federal issues and federal political leaders have had a minimal impact on the Tasmanian election. So far, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not visited the state during the campaign, even for the Liberal campaign launch. Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has visited twice, including for Labor’s launch.

While Tasmania’s economy has held up surprisingly well during the pandemic – due in no small part to Commonwealth JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments – the end of those payments is likely to have a negative impact on the state’s economy. Some have pointed to this as an underlying reason for going to an election early.

Concerns about delays to the roll-out of COVID vaccinations and the possible distraction from the key state Liberal campaign theme of management of the pandemic may be another reason for keeping federal ministers away.




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For its part, Labor has campaigned on state Liberal failure to reduce hospital and housing waiting lists and the lack of action on a range of key infrastructure development promises made at the 2018 election. The opposition has also raised concerns about future budget spending cuts to fund high-cost COVID economic stimulus measures, TAFE privatisation and delays in replacing the Spirit of Tasmania ferries, which are vital for interstate transport, tourism and freight.

The Greens and key high-profile independent candidates such as Hickey and popular Glenorchy Mayor Kristie Johnston in Clark have raised concerns about government secrecy, ministerial accountability and the state’s weak laws on political donations and, associated with that, poker machine licensing reforms.

There have been no public political opinion polls so far during this campaign. However, successive surveys by Tasmanian pollsters EMRS throughout 2020 placed the Liberals as likely to win more than 52% of the vote state-wide.

Since, historically, a party winning anything over 48% is likely to secure majority government in Tasmania, if those polls are reflected in the election outcome on May 1, another majority Liberal government seems likely.The Conversation

Michael Lester, PhD candidate, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Samoa’s stunning election result: on the verge of a new ruling party for the first time in 40 years


Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni, University of Auckland and Patricia A. O’Brien, Georgetown UniversitySamoan politics is on a knife edge. After the country voted in general elections on April 9, counting so far has resulted in a dead heat between the two major parties.

This is a stunning and unexpected electoral rebuke of the ruling party, the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has dominated Samoa for four decades.

What are the results so far?

Coming into the election, HRPP held 47 of the 51 seats and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi predicted his party would win 42 of the 51 seats. It only won 25.

The nine-month-old opposition, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party, also won 25 seats, just shy of the 26 needed to form government outright.

FAST’s leader, former Deputy Prime Minister Sa’o Faapito Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, says her party will consider a coalition deal with the winner of the 51st seat, independent Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio.

Tuala has indicated he favours change. But Tuilaepa – a formidable and longstanding leader of 23 years — has not yet conceded defeat. Meanwhile, recounts and potential challenges to results will also slow a final outcome.

Why did we get this result?

The Samoan public was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with its government. This situation then quickly deteriorated when three controversial bills were passed last year, thanks to the government’s huge majority. These bills fundamentally altered the operations of the Lands and Titles Court, giving it additional powers over the bestowal of lands and titles within families and villages.

As Samoa-based lawyer Fiona Ey wrote last year, they also

undermine judicial independence and the rule of law, with significant implications for human rights.

In protest, Fiame – who had been Tuilaepa’s right-hand person — resigned as deputy prime minister in late 2020. In March, she joined FAST as its new leader.

Support for HRPP was also damaged by claims the government badly mishandled the 2019 measles epidemic.

On top of this, despite having no active COVID-19 cases in Samoa, the country is still under state of emergency restrictions. So there are increasing frustrations over continued border closures, which are straining the economy and preventing family reunifications.

But even with all these indications the government was out of favour, few predicted the weekend’s result.

Where did FAST come from?

Fiame’s move to FAST and appointment as leader was both politically astute and perfectly timed.

Fiame would give FAST what they needed to ultimately unseat the HRPP from its 40-year hold over Samoa’s governing systems. Her value was, and is, twofold. First, her chiefly and political lineage gives her significant domestic appeal. Second, her already established profile and experience on the world stage is invaluable should FAST become Samoa’s next ruling party.




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FAST was formed in July 2020 in reaction to the three bills. It began employing savvy tactics, attracting notable candidates and carrying out extensive social media outreach.

Through social media, FAST was able to reach across Samoa and beyond, connecting particularly with the substantial Samoan communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the United States (many of whom donated significant amounts of money and time towards its election campaign). Due to the border closures, the large numbers of eligible voters residing outside Samoa could not return, as required, to cast ballots.

FAST’s success can be attributed to the combined leadership of Fiame and deputy leader La’auli Polataivao Leuatea Schmidt and their ability to capitalise on HRPP’s clear underestimation of the national mood, both against the three bills and for appropriate access to clear and robust policy information.

HRPP, on the other hand, relied heavily on its “business as usual” approach. The party’s underestimation of both the mood – and FAST — has cost it dearly.

What does this mean?

For Samoans, the election outcome is less about launching an attack against the prime minister and HRPP, and more about making an unequivocal point about Samoa’s commitment to protecting its two core “independence institutions”. These are the Samoan aiga (family) and the Samoan rule of law.

In voting for a non-HRPP majority, Samoa’s voters have signalled loud and clear they are prepared to step up to protect their “faasinomaga”, or their Samoan values, identity and heritage.

If the post-election negotiations go FAST’s way, Fiame is poised to be Samoa’s next prime minister. Although she would be the first woman in the position, pre-colonial Samoa has a strong tradition of national female leaders.




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A transformed political landscape energised by new leadership promises renewed approaches to the many challenges facing the nation, including climate change and economic development.

Samoa has a rich history as a pioneer of political independence in the Pacific. It’s protest movements against colonial ruler Germany and New Zealand eventually led to Samoa becoming the first independent nation in the region in 1962.

With this election, Samoa resumes its place as one of the Pacific’s most innovative homes for Indigenous self-determination and democracy.The Conversation

Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni, Associate Professor in Criminology Programme, University of Auckland and Patricia A. O’Brien, Historian, Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University and Adjunct Professor in the Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Labor’s thumping win in Western Australia carries risks for both sides



AAP/Richard Wainwright

Martin Drum, University of Notre Dame Australia

Liberal fears of a wipeout in the Western Australia state election have been realised, with the Labor party winning about 52 seats in the 59-member Legislative Assembly.

This represents the biggest electoral win in any Australian jurisdiction since the stabilisation of the two-party system over 70 years ago. There is no doubt that the immense popularity of Labor Premier Mark McGowan was a decisive factor in the result. McGowan enjoys rock-star-like status in the state, and this was noted by his political opponents during the count.

For the Liberals it has been a devastating loss: not only have they almost been obliterated from the parliament, but their leader has gone and they are no longer the official opposition – that now goes to the National Party.

One of the earliest seats to call was the seat of Dawesville, held by 34 year old Liberal leader Zak Kirkup. He had already conceded that he could not win the election before a vote had been cast, and his subsequent focus had been on retaining as many Liberal seats as possible.

Another high profile casualty was former Liberal leader Liza Harvey, who lost her seat of Scarborough. Harvey was blamed by some in Liberal circles for the defeat. As opposition leader in 2020 she had called for WA’s hard border to come down, which was followed immediately by the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

At this stage, it looks like the extraordinary support for Labor will translate into an upper house majority for the first time for Labor. It is worth noting that Liberal-National governments in WA have regularly controlled both houses of parliament while in government. While the Nationals occasionally voted differently from the Liberals, being in cabinet meant this was a rarity. Control of both houses should mean government bills will pass into law with little resistance.




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Is WA a one-party state?

While there will be at least six Liberal or National MPs in the 59 seat lower house, and a much higher number of non-government MPs in the upper house, there is no doubt the McGowan government will dominate proceedings in parliament.

Such is the imbalance, though, that it raises questions of accountability. Parliament is the principal body of accountability for governments in our democratic system, and it is critical parliamentary processes that typically hold government to account are maintained. Opposition parties need resources to research contentious issues, investigate complaints, and develop alternative policies.

It is critical oppositions are able to ask questions without notice in question time, put detailed questions on notice to the government in the Legislative Council, and have a presence on parliamentary committees that investigate issues arising in government and in the broader community. Most importantly, they need the resources to scrutinise bills which are introduced into either house.




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There are dangers for the government itself in having a large majority. Some Labor members may struggle to have their voices heard in such a large party room. There will be increased competition for all manner of roles in government, starting with positions in the new Labor ministry, and disappointment may lead to discontent and in-fighting within the partyroom.

Governments that control both houses run the risk of passing poorly-structured legislation. Parliamentary scrutiny leads to better governance, a factor that in the long run helps governments as much as oppositions. One factor in the demise of the long-running Howard government was the passage of its “workchoices” legislation, achieved during a rare incidence of government controlling both houses of the federal parliament.

WA Liberals have been all but obliterated in the state election, with leader Zak Kirkup among those who lost their seats.
AAP/Richard Wainwright

Federal implications

There will no doubt be some pundits who draw federal implications from Labor’s stunning victory, but it is worth remembering that neither Scott Morrison nor Anthony Albanese featured in the campaigns of either party. Albanese did visit WA during the campaign period, but did not join McGowan on the campaign trail.

Western Australia has long been a traditional heartland for the federal Liberals, and they currently hold 11 of the 16 seats here. Federal Liberals from WA have been punching well above their weight in the federal government. But Morrison has not visited Western Australia since October 2019, and two of his senior ministers from WA are both on leave with their futures under a cloud.

Any suggestion of trying to overlay these results onto federal seats is a fraught exercise. But there is one thing we know for sure: there will be a lot fewer people in WA working for the Liberal party in paid positions than there were before the election. This will affect the ability of Liberals to strategise, and organise on the ground.

The organisational structure of the party has come under scrutiny in recent times, amid fears that the WA branch is dominated by a small group of powerbrokers. Maintaining robust structures for campaigning will be crucial with a federal election due within the next year.

But there are a few positives that the federal government may take out of the campaign. First, WA voters have consistently voted differently at state and federal level. And Morrison, while not enjoying the popularity of McGowan, is more popular than his opponent. The WA election also marks the fourth straight state or territory election during COVID-19 where the incumbent government has been returned. It is clear incumbency and competent management are distinct advantages during a pandemic.The Conversation

Martin Drum, Lecturer Politics and International Relations, University of Notre Dame Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Could the Morrison government’s response to sexual assault claims cost it the next election?



Jeremy Piper/AAP

Sarah Cameron, University of Sydney

Today, thousands of Australians are expected to march around the country, angry and fed up at the treatment of women. In Canberra they will form a ring of protest around Parliament House.

This comes after Melbourne academic and entrepreneur Janine Hendry wondered how many “extremely disgruntled” women it would take to link arms around parliament to tell the government “we’ve had enough” (the answer is about 4,000).

It follows Brittany Higgins’ allegation of rape in a minister’s office in 2019 and an allegation Attorney-General Christian Porter raped a 16-year-old in 1988 (which he denies). It also comes amid multiple claims of a toxic work culture at Parliament House.

While Higgins’ case has sparked numerous inquiries, she claims she was not supported in the aftermath of her alleged assault. Regarding Porter, the government is resisting calls for an independent inquiry, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring him an “innocent man under our law”.

As Australia heads into another pre-election season, questions have been raised about the potential impact of recent events.

Women are obviously a significant demographic, and data shows they are already drifting away from the Liberal Party.

So, what’s at stake when it comes to women voters and the Liberals at the next election?

Gender and voting behaviour

The Australian Election Study is a nationally representative survey of voter behaviour that has run after all federal elections since 1987.

In 2019, it showed that although the Liberal-National Coalition won the federal election, the Liberal Party attracted the lowest proportion of women’s votes since 1987.



While 45% of men gave their first preference to the Liberal Party, just 35% of women did so. Parties on the political left also had an advantage among women, with 6% more women than men voting for the Greens, and a smaller margin of 3% more women voting for Labor.

Looking at the gender gap over time, we see it has actually reversed over the past 30 years. Back in the 1990s, women were slightly more likely to vote for the Liberal party, and men were more likely to vote Labor.

This has gradually switched, so men now prefer the Liberal Party and women prefer Labor. The gender gap in voting Liberal is now at its greatest point on record.



This reversal of the gender gap in voting behaviour isn’t unique to Australia, it has also been observed in other democracies including in Europe and North America.

Why are we seeing a gender gap?

There are a number of factors underpinning this transformation of gender and voting in Australia.

This includes tremendous social change, such as women’s increased participation in higher education. Higher education is associated with political ideology that is further to the left.

Women’s increased participation in the labour force is also a factor. The election study shows in 1990, 41% of union members were women, by 2019, that figure had increased to 55%.




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But womens’ voting behaviour can also be attributed to major changes in Australia’s major political parties. Back in the early 1990s, women were similarly underrepresented in both the major parties — just 13% of parliamentarians in 1990 were women.

Since then, Labor has dramatically increased its proportion of women in parliament, reaching 47% through party quotas as of the last election. The Liberal Party on the other hand, has made slower progress, reaching just 23% at the most recent election.

New research published in the journal Electoral Studies shows left-leaning women are more likely to support female candidates.

The Liberal Party’s ‘women problem’

So, even before the current crisis, the Liberal party was losing the electoral support of women.

The Liberal Party’s “women problem” has become a common criticism, not just by political opponents but also prominent Liberal Party figures including former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.



The current crisis has the potential to exacerbate the gender gap in voting behaviour.

That said, election results are often influenced by the most important issues at the time of the election. The salience of different issues — shaped to a large degree by media coverage — can change considerably over time.

Approval ratings of Morrison from the Essential Poll show he lost a lot of support during the bushfires in late 2019 and early 2020, which he was perceived as handling poorly.

Since then, Morrison has benefited from Australia’s relative success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of a phenomenon known as “rallying ‘round the flag,” voters have supported him and the government during this time of crisis.



The next election

The election can be held anytime from August this year, although political observers currently expect it to be next year.

The electoral impact of current events will depend not only on the government’s response to the sexual assault allegations (and voter satisfaction with those responses), but also which issues are salient at election time. A historical sexual assault allegation against former Labor leader Bill Shorten was not a major factor in the lead up to the last election (he denies the claims and in 2014, police said they would not proceed with charges).




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Interestingly, the Australian Election Study shows trust in government reached its lowest point on record in 2019 with just one in four voters believing that people in government could be trusted. In contrast, three quarters thought those in government were more interested in looking after themselves.

On the issue of sexual assault, recent polling data also suggests the government is similarly perceived as putting itself first. Of those polled, 65% agreed “the government has been more interested in protecting itself than the interests of those who have been assaulted”. This includes half of Coalition voters, and a similar proportion of men and women.

Woman marching for women's safety in 2019.
Polls suggest voters don’t like they way the government has handled the Porter and Higgins cases.
Jeremy Piper/AAP

Elections are decided on many issues and factors, including what is making headlines closer to election day, and the performance of leaders and parties.

But the growing gender gap in voting will be on the radar of both major parties. The Liberal Party ignores it at its peril.The Conversation

Sarah Cameron, Lecturer in Politics, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.